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Stage set for memorable election

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

On Saturday morning, Michele Maxwell and her crew from Apalachicola were handing out plates of lo country boil at Riverfront Park to potential voters.

Likewise, her opponent in the clerk of courts race, Erin Griffith, was out campaigning elsewhere in the county.

It's as easy as mailing a letter

These two young women are out searching for every vote they can, and they will until election day, in their bid to become one of the county’s five constitutional officers.

Logo for Election 2020

Basically, the stage is set for one of the biggest presidential elections, and with it a power-packed local election, in recent memory.

Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley, who like Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper was re-elected without opposition, said a flurry of registrations by Monday’s deadline has led to 8,482 registered voters. Actually, the Monday deadline had to be extended a day statewide, by order of Gov. Ron DeSantis, because the state’s computer system malfunctioned on Monday.

She said that based on state information, the county has 1,152 residents who would be eligible to vote, but who have decided not to register to do so.

As it stands now, there are 3,686 registered Democrats in the county, about 250 more than the 3,435 who much prefer the Grand Old Party. The remaining 1,353 voters are either without party affiliation, or are associated with a minor party.

“We had a nice little influx right there towards the end,” said Riley.

If you are among the rare few who don’t know who’s vying for your votes, other than Griffith and Maxwell for clerk, here’s the rundown.

For tax collector, incumbent Rick Watson, 73, of St. George Island, is seeking a full four-year term, after being elected in 2018 to complete the term of his predecessor, the late Jimmy Harris. He is being challenged by a fellow Republican, Danny W. Gay, 49, of Apalachicola.

For sheriff, Republican incumbent Sheriff A.J. ‘Tony’ Smith, 60, of Apalachicola, is going up against Democratic challenger Carlton Louis Whaley, 51, of Carrabelle.

Smith is seeking a second term as sheriff. Whaley, a former employee of the sheriff’s office, is currently a school board member.

In the race for superintendent of the Franklin County Schools, incumbent Democrat Traci Moses Yoder, 42, of Apalachicola, is facing Republican challenger Steve Lanier, 62, Eastpont.

That rounds it out for the constitutional officers.

In Apalachicola’s District 3 county commission race, incumbent Democrat Noah Lockley, Jr., 69, is being challenged by Brett Philip Gormley, 41, who is running without party affiliation.

The race for county commissioner for District 5 in and around Carrabelle pits incumbent William Massey, 60, a former Democrat who is now running without party affiliation, against Republican challenger Madeline Nevarez, 54, and Jessica Varnes Ward, 41, of Eastpoint, who is running without party affiliation.

District #5 stretches from Otter Slide Road in Eastpoint on the west, where it butts up against District #1, all the way east to First Street in Carrabelle, where it meets District #2.

Riley said early voting begins Monday, Oct. 19 and will continue daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at both the Apalachicola and Carrabelle elections offices, through Saturday, Oct. 31.

She said masking and other CDC guidelines will all be in place.

Voters have until Saturday, Oct. 24 to request a mail-in ballot. They can also pick one up up until Monday, Nov. 2, and all must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Riley said her office has sent out 3,209 ballots thus far, and so far 610 of them have been returned, largely in the two drop off boxes, which is a little less than 20 percent. Together, this indicates that 7 percent of eligible voters have already cast their ballots.

“If you mail it, one stamp is all it takes,” she said.